CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., will testify before a public hearing about the wide misuse of hydrocodone and other prescription drugs.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will host the hearing at its White Oak Conference Center in Silver Spring, Md. It was originally scheduled for Tuesday morning, but has been postponed because of impending weather conditions.
"Nationally, 75 percent of all deaths from drugs come from prescription drugs," Manchin said during a telephone interview on Friday. "In West Virginia, 90 percent of all drug deaths come from misused prescription drugs."
The other 10 percent of drug deaths in West Virginia, and 25 percent nationally, come from illegal drugs such as heroin or methamphetamine.
"I have no problem at all providing prescription drugs to the people who need them," Manchin said. "But we have to get a hand on drug abuse."
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., led successful efforts this past year to toughen New York state regulations over drugs like hydrocodone, Manchin said.
"Senator Schumer has been a big supporter for me. He is concerned about the state of New York.
"This is a problem of epidemic proportions all over our state," Manchin said. "Areas hard hit by unemployment are usually the areas that suffer the most.
"We are going to continue to fight the good fight. I know the pharmaceutical industry and people who have a business plan that does not look at the human toll will continue to oppose me. But this is a war we cannot lose."
Fourteen years ago, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and FDA began studying whether hydrocodone is so addictive that it needs to be more closely guarded.
Manchin repeatedly requested that the results of those scientific studies be released so the public could learn more about dangers associated with taking hydrocodone-related drugs.
Those studies, he said, would also help lawmakers to understand how to make better decisions about controlling those pharmaceuticals.
On Friday, Manchin said the federal agencies finally sent him copies of those reports.
"Just two days ago, they gave us 400 pages of documents. I am going to ask for an extension of the hearing, and for the FDA to not make a ruling, until we have a chance to evaluate these studies. We are going through them and dissecting them," Manchin said
Manchin believes pharmaceutical lobbyists killed his legislative efforts earlier this year to make it harder to abuse drugs containing hydrocodone.
"We will keep fighting the war on drugs against pill mills, pharmacies and doctors who are overprescribing. We are looking everywhere to catch the abusers.
"Manufacturers keep flooding the market," Manchin concluded. "We have to figure out how to control this. It is ravaging our whole society."
The FDA hearings may be scheduled for later this week. The meetings will be broadcast live online at: https://collaboration.fda.gov/dsarmac1012.
Manchin also urges "all the people of West Virginia to call or write to my office so that I can share your personal stories about how the epidemic of prescription drug abuse is tearing apart your families, your schools, your businesses and your communities."
Manchin can be reached at 304-342-5855 or toll free at 855-275-5737. Mail can be sent to: 300 Virginia Street East (Suite 2630), Charleston, W.Va. 25301.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.